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Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - Iraq After the Surge: What Next?

Location: Washington, DC


SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE): Mr. Chairman, thank you.

And gentlemen, welcome. I want to go back, just very briefly as I open my questions, to a point that Chairman Biden noted at the beginning. And that is, we all recognize that the two of you and who you represent are implementers of policy. You don't set policy. You can help influence it, shape it, mold it.

But I know from my brief military experience, General, when the commander tells you to take the hill, you take the hill or you sure as hell try. And we have the best force structure in the world to do that. And I think we all acknowledge that.

And my point in opening with that comment is to make certain that you understand as well as all of your colleagues that this is not a session today to pick on you, to pick on any of you or certainly not acknowledge the kind of sacrifices that you both acknowledged here today. And we respect that and we appreciate it.

But I have always believed in one dynamic of this business. And that is if we are to be held accountable, elected officials, for any one thing, it is that we should be held accountable to developing and setting policy worthy of the sacrifices of our men and women that we ask to implement policy.

So I wanted to put that on the table before I ask a couple of questions.

As we sit here today -- and the two of you are acutely aware of this -- your headquarters in the International Zone, the Green Zone, last few days has continually been rocketed, mortared. We took casualties there, the other day, as you know, of course -- a number of Americans killed and wounded.

And there's, it seems to me, some disconnect in the abstraction that we're dealing with today as you both have presented not a glowing report, but I think a fair report, what you see as not just progress made but where we're going and what this is about. But the reality is, since the president announced the surge last January, we have lost over 1,000 dead Americans -- January of 2007. And I know you're painfully aware of that, General. We lost certain elements of our units as well in the wounded -- over 6,300 wounded -- and all the other dynamics that have been alluded to.

And the reason I bring that up is because I think those are the realities that we're talking about here. And I want to move to one particular area that you have both covered in your testimony, and that is where do we go from here, whether it's the pause and then you will assess or whether it's what Ambassador Crocker noted, that I will get to specifically, the regional and international dynamics -- as you have said, a diplomatic surge.

But the fact is also, and I think anyone who takes an honest evaluation of this -- and certainly we've seen the U.S. Institute of Peace's report, the part II of the Iraqi Study Group Report, your former colleagues, General, who were up here last week and others who have been involved with Iraq and military and foreign affairs for some time. The fact is, regardless of whether we're in or whether we're out or whether -- when we leave, or the time frame when we leave, because we are going to unwind and we are going to leave at some point, if for no other reason than what my colleagues have noted here, because we don't have the capacity to sustain it -- if for no other reason. And just as you said, Ambassador Crocker, it's a matter of how we leave and what we leave as best we can, but we're dealing with uncontrollables well out of the capacity for the world's finest military to deal with.

And I would just want to remind you, General, of something that you said in March last year. And I think it's something we should keep our eye on. You noted, this is your quote, "There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq -- to the insurgency of Iraq." And then you went on to say, "A political resolution is what will determine, in the long run, the success of that effort."

When you were both here in September, you both noted that, that the surge was to buy time, essentially, for some political reconciliation or at least some accommodation. And then a couple of weeks ago, General Petraeus, you gave an interview which was in The Washington Post and you noted, quote, "No one in the U.S. or Iraqi government feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation."

Now, if we all generally agree that the sacrifices that we're making are all about the underpinning dynamic that in the end is all that's going to count -- certainly security is important, we understand that, but how we arrive or the Iraqis arrive at some political accommodation to sort all this out -- then that should be our focus. And the fact is, by any analysis, we're going to continue to see a bloody Iraq. We are going to continue to see, as you have both noted in your testimony, an Iraq that will ricochet from crisis to crisis. And I am wondering as I listen to both of you carefully, if we are not essentially holding our policy captive to Iraqi developments.

Certainly conditions, as you've noted, General, dictate tactics. But I'm not sure that conditional response should dictate policy.

And with that, I want to launch into Ambassador Crocker's testimony when you talk about a diplomatic surge. Now, a diplomatic surge, I assume, is somewhat similar to the surge we saw militarily, meaning that you put tens of thousands of more troops on the ground and you did the things you thought you needed to do to surge. But as I read the testimony, Ambassador, it's pretty thin.

I don't know if I would equate surge with Turkey hosted the second ministerial meeting of Iraq's neighbors in November, last November, and Kuwait will now host the third meeting later this month. I don't know if that's a surge.

Support from Arab capitals has been strong -- has not been strong. I don't know how we think we would find any regional diplomatic effort that's going to work if we can't get the regional neighbors to work with us.

Syria plays an ambivalent role. Iran continues to undermine the efforts of the Iraqi government.

So, where's the surge? What are we doing? I don't see Secretary Rice doing any Kissinger-esque flying around. Where is the diplomatic surge, in my opinion the one core issue that in the end is going to make the difference as to the outcome of Iraq and will certainly have an awful lot to do with how we come out of this? So, where is the surge? What are you talking about?

AMB. CROCKER: The neighbors process is predicated on biannual ministerial meetings. So in November in Istanbul, April, a little bit ahead of six months in Kuwait, that's the schedule we run to. The first ministerial was last May in Sharm el-Sheikh. In between the ministerials, there are meetings of working groups on energy, border security and refugees. The border security, the energy and refugee working groups have met over the course of the last month. Border security will meet, I think, in this coming week. So there is activity.

Does there need to be more activity on the part of the region? Clearly, yes. And I noted in my statement the Arabs need to be more engaged. We have pressed them on that. I have made a swing through the region. Of course, the president and the vice president were both on regional tours in the first part of this year. Ultimately, again, the Arabs are going to have to make their own decisions, but they also need to understand that this is important to their interests; it's not a favor to us or to Iraq. So that is a message we continue to press them on.

Similarly with Iran. As I noted in my statement, we have taken a position that we are prepared to discuss face-to-face with the Iranians security in Iraq at Iraqi request. The Iraqis have announced that they would like to see another meeting occur. We have said we're ready to participate. It's now up to the Iranians.

Again, we can't compel the neighbors to behave constructively and positively, but we can certainly send the message that it's in their interest to do so.

SEN. HAGEL: My time is up, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate it. Thank you.


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